As a pop culture blogger who has not hesitated to make my opinion of and history with Lady Gaga clear, it might seem downright irresponsible of me to have waited almost two weeks to weigh in on her new album (in case you haven’t heard…. it’s called ARTPOP). I could tell you I’ve been listening to it nonstop in order to better articulate my response (untrue). I could say I’ve been busy because I recently started a real-person job (true). Regardless, my devotion to Lady Gaga circa 2011 made the much-buzzed release of ARTPOP a vaguely nerve-wracking experience. And now that her new music is here, this modest blogger can finally deliver with confidence his verdict! DRUMROLL PLEASE!
Yeah I could barely get through it. #SorryNotSorry Mama Monster.
I have no intention of listening to it again. Maybe “Dope,” when I feel like hearing a rockin’ piano ballad, and maybe “MANiCURE” when I’m feeling like really stupid or something, but otherwise, ARTPOP is unlistenable. I really had my hopes up for a while there, but now I’m officially in the market for a new pop idol (I guess I’m Team Katy by default?).
And I’m not alone. If you’re even a moderate internet user, you’ve probably come across a review of ARTPOP, and raves are hard to find. Vulture has a nice round-up of highlights if you’re interested. I love that pretty much everyone picked on Gaga’s lyric in the title track, “My ARTPOP could mean anything.” It’s such an easy target for a music critic, I almost wonder if Lady Gaga is trolling her own stuff in an effort to get people like me to write about her. Naaah. We’d all be writing about her even if the music was spectacular.
It’s sad that I feel the need to remind us that Lady Gaga rose to prominence not only because of her media shenanigans and decadently outrageous image. She also wrote music. Catchy music that was so powerful it shifted American pop music tastes eastward, to four-on-the-floor Euro dance beats. She wasn’t such a prominent part of our cultural landscape from 2009 to 2011 because she wore meat dresses. Nobody would have noticed the meat dresses if she hadn’t been pumping out unforgettable tune after unforgettable tune. I agree with Tom Moon that the music of ARTPOP seems like such an afterthought. The shiny wrapping is far more intricate than the gift itself, literally and figuratively.
But what can we learn from this disappointing experience, fellow little monsters? Given the relatively meager album sales, it’s actually comforting to me to know that no amount of strategic, over-the-top marketing can distract from actual content. Perhaps there is no substitute for quality after all. Art and pop and their many intersections (why is Gaga acting like the blending of visual art and pop culture is such a novel amalgamation?) should be about the art, not the noise surrounding it. The hubbub over ARTPOP has perhaps taught us that even in 2013, the era of ironic personal marketing and relentless buzz feeds, the creative, not the corporate, is still what matters.
The best piece of writing I’ve found about ARTPOP comes from Alex Kazemi, who as far as I can tell is not a professional music critic. His tongue-in-cheek roasting extends far beyond the actual album, encompassing today’s narcissistic youth culture. (“ARTPOP IS GOING SOMEWHERE JUST SO YOU CAN POST ABOUT IT.”) It’s such a spot-on review because even its messy, ADHD format reflects the sorry state of our obsessive digital era.
Anyway, please Gaga, more matter with less art. Or rather, less “ART! AAAART!! OK???” You regroup and get back to me, I’ll be over here listening to Jay-Z. For a sublime example of music using the art world to create organic and appealing content, just watch this: